Last semester, University of West Florida students received multiple emails that were actually attempts at email phishing, a scam email that tries to gain access to personal information, in this case, students’ email accounts.
The emails appeared to be from the university and claimed that students had to access a link and enter their UWF Gmail password within 72 hours or their account would be deactivated.
“If the students who clicked on a link contacted us, we advised them to change their passwords immediately,” said Sandra Thompson, director of Information Technology Services for UWF, in an email interview.
UWF’s ITS Help Desk alerted students to the scam within hours and warned students to “always be suspicious of emails that request your password as they are usually an attempt to steal your identity.”
No legitimate email from the university will ask for your Gmail or MyUWF password, not even those from the ITS Help Desk.
Thompson also said that students should be skeptical of emails that come from generic or vague senders like “UWF.EDU Team,” emails that contain grammatical errors and those that ask you to open a link.
“A favorite phishing technique is to create a phony website that looks just like the real website of the organization they are pretending to be,” Thompson said. “For example, you may be sent to a website that looks exactly like your bank’s website, but is actually run by criminals waiting for you to enter your personal information.”
The emails did cause some concern among UWF students about the security of their personal information.
“It’s really scary because I have so much information in the UWF system, like my hard drive and my emails and everything on MyUWF, that if it got into the hands of the wrong person I would really be out of luck,” said Kate Ferrell, a senior anthropology major.
Being an informed user is the best way to protect your information and avoid being the victim of a phishing scam.
“If you have any doubts regarding legitimacy, contact the institution to confirm,” said Thompson. “Do not use the contact information provided in the email or website, as it may also be phony. Instead, find the organization’s website or contact information using a search engine. If you responded to a phishing scam, it is important to act quickly. If you provided a password, account number, or PIN number, immediately notify the organization that manages the account. In the case of your MyUWF password, contact the ITS Help Desk at 474-2075 or email@example.com.”